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What is Kwanzaa?

What is Kwanzaa?Celebrate family, community and culture – celebrate Kwanzaa! This African American and Pan-African holiday is observed from December 26 – January 1 each year. It was created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, professor of Africana Studies at California State University, in order to promote, preserve and continually revitalize African American culture.

Origins

The origins of Kwanzaa come from the first harvest celebrations of Africa. The name “Kwanzaa” is derived from the phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which means “first fruits” in Swahili, a Pan-African language which is the most widely spoken African language. Kwanzaa is structured around the five activities of Continental African “first fruit” celebrations, which are ingathering, reverence, commemoration, recommitment and celebration. Kwanzaa is a cultural holiday, not a religious one, so it’s embraced by Africans of all religious faiths.

Activities

Each year, participants take part in feasting, gift giving and in the symbolic lighting of a candle holder called a kinara. The lighting is similar to the lighting of the Menorah during Hanukkah, the Jewish celebration in December. The kinara’s shape is symbolic of the roots that African Americans have in the continent of Africa. During Kwanzaa, seven candles are placed in the kinara – three red candles (African blood shed) on the left, three green candles (the land of Africa) on the right, and one black candle (the African race) in the center. The seven candles represent the Seven Principles (or Nguzo Saba) of Kwanzaa, while the colors of red, green and black represent the colors of the holiday. A new candle is lit on each day of Kwanzaa, with the center black candle being the first. The rest of the lighting alternates between the red and green candles beginning with the outermost red candle and moving towards the center. Each day of Kwanzaa is dedicated to the reflection on one of the Seven Principles.

The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa

  1. Umoja (Unity)
    To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race. 
  2. Kujichagulia (Self-Determination)
    To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.
  3. Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility)
    To build and maintain our community together and make our brother’s and sister’s problems our problems and to solve them together.
  4.  Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)
    To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.
  5.  Nia (Purpose)
    To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
  6.  Kuumba (Creativity)
    To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it. 
  7. Imani (Faith)
    To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

Do you have a special way of celebrating Kwanzaa? Share with us on our BlueMountain.com facebook page today! And don’t forget to check out our Kwanzaa eCards!

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It’s time for the Winter Solstice!

Its time for the Winter Solstice!It actually only lasts a moment, but the WINTER SOLSTICE is celebrated by many cultures with a spirit of rebirth and long tradition. Holidays and festivals mark the winter solstice, the time when exactly when the Earth’s axial tilt is farthest away from the sun at its maximum of 23° 26′. What does this mean for us? Longer nights, shorter days and plenty of celebrations.

“Solstice” comes from the Latin “sol” meaning sun, and “sistere,” which is “to cause to stand still”. In ancient times, these astronomical events actually influenced everything from harvests to moods, and so people around the planet observed the occasion in different ways.

Even today, gatherings are valued for emotional well-being in the gloom of winter during the darkest time of the year. Midwinter festivals often feature evergreens, lots of lights, cozy fires, feasts, time with family and friends, and the practice of dancing and singing to get warm in the cold weather.

The span of celebrations in December is diverse in both religion and culture. Observances around the winter solstice include Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and traditions of Neopagan Wiccans, as well as the Native American tribes.

Familiar symbols and practices that have evolved with the holidays come from Pagan times: the decoration of homes with holly, ivy, mistletoe; the burning of the yule log; the giving of gifts; the decoration of an evergreen tree; the belief in magical reindeer, and more.

The Winter Solstice will occur at 5:30 AM Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) on December 22, 2011. It is also known as the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere and the summer solstice in the southern hemisphere due to the seasonal differences 

Do you have favorite winter traditions? – Post them below or on our BlueMountian.com facebook page today.

Its time for the Winter Solstice!Its time for the Winter Solstice!Its time for the Winter Solstice!Its time for the Winter Solstice!Its time for the Winter Solstice!Its time for the Winter Solstice!

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Christmas eCard of Week – Christmas Dreams

Christmas eCard of Week   Christmas Dreams

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our pick for the Christmas eCard of the week this week is Christmas Dreams - a beautiful card that brings imagination to life! Blue Mountain artist, Drew King, creates a fun and festive Christmas world in this animated eCard, which would make a great send to anyone who enjoys the magical feeling Christmas brings. Even though Christmas is less than a week away there’s still plenty of time to send this card or any of the Christmas eCards Blue Mountain has to offer, including religious Christmas eCards and talking Christmas eCards!

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Happy Hanukkah!

Happy Hanukkah!“… and May This Festival of Lights bring Blessings
upon you and All Your Loved Ones for Happiness,
for Health, and for Spiritual and Material Wealth,
and May the Lights of Chanukah Usher in the Light of Moshiach
and a Better World for All of Humankind.”
_Hanukkah blessing

 

Although Hanukkah is celebrated with much fanfare, it is actually a minor holiday in the Jewish calendar.  Lighting the menorah, spinning the dreidel and feasting on latkes are some of the traditions associated with Hanukkah.  This eight day and night “Festival of Lights,” starting at sundown on the 25th of Kislev (ninth month in the Jewish lunar calendar—December 20th in 2011), is rooted in second centuryJerusalem.

Hanukkah, or “dedication” in Hebrew, recognizes the defeat of the Syrians-Greeks by the Jews in 165 B.C. In an uprising led by High Priest Mattathias, the Jews reclaimed their Holy Temple and purified it, burning ritual oil that lasted a miraculous eight days in the Temple’s menorah. 

A little more about Hanukkah:

The Menorah

 To commemorate the Jews’ victory, a candelabrum called a hanukkiyah holds a total of nine candles – four candles on either side of a taller candle in the center. Each of the eight candles is lit by the ninth, symbolizing the eight days of the Temple purification.

The Dreidel

During the Syrian takeover, study of the Torah was outlawed.  To study secretly without getting caught, spinning tops called dreidels were kept nearby. If spotted, Jews could always claim they’d been playing with the dreidel to avoid punishment. 

The dreidel spins like a top and has four flat sides with Hebrew letters on each side: nun, gimel, hay, and shin.  These letters represent, “Nes gadol haya sham,” which translates into, “A great miracle happened there,” orIsrael. 

These letters are also part of a driedel game using gelt, or chocolate coins.  All players start with the same number of coins, putting one into a pot at the beginning.  The dreidel is spun, and depending on which side turns up, coins are either added, half the pot or the whole pot of coins is awarded to the player who spun, or nothing is done at all. The game is over when one player wins all the coins. 

 Festive Foods

Traditional foods commonly associated with Hanukkah are cooked in oil, in memory of the re-dedication of the holyTemple.  These include latkes, or potato pancakes, believed to have come fromEastern Europe.  From Israel, jelly donuts called sufganiyas are also cooked in oil. 

As this historic season approaches, take a moment to reflect on all that became a part of the tradition, and the many who fought and sacrificed to reclaim their culture and celebrate it today. Send a Hanukkah eCard today and let friends and loved ones know you’re thinking about them during this special holiday!

Happy Hanukkah!Happy Hanukkah!Happy Hanukkah!Happy Hanukkah!Happy Hanukkah!Happy Hanukkah!

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Christmas eCard of the Week – Remembered Joys

Christmas eCard of the Week   Remembered Joys

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our pick for Christmas eCard of the Week this week is Remembered Joys. This beautiful and magical Interactive Christmas eCard is truly a work of art. Blue Mountain artist David Sommers brings this greeting to life and makes it a fun experience for everyone who watches.

“I wanted this card to have a warm traditional Christmas feel that was also magical, ” David says. “Everyone who watches the story gets involved by clicking through the scenes to help create the magic.”

Christmas eCards are a great way to let friends near and far know you’re thinking about them at this special time of yearm abd this one is a great pick! For more Christmas eCards – including Talking Christmas eCards, Religious Christmas eCards and much more, stop by our website and check out our fan page on facebook.

Merry Christmas!

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What to Write In a Christmas Card

What to Write In a Christmas Card

It is said that “A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You” was written in the very first Christmas card. If you would like to come up with something a little more endearing we have some suggestions for you–we’re happy to help with some great Christmas quotes and messages that would be welcome in any Christmas card or eCard!

Christmas Quotes

Sometimes you don’t have to write much to get your idea across. And whether you’re sending a warm, traditional message or a funny one, the person receiving your card will appreciate your personalized touch. Here are 10 of our favorite quotes this time of year:

  • Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.  ~Norman Vincent Peale
  • One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day. Don’t clean it up too quickly.  ~Andy Rooney
  • There has been only one Christmas–the rest are anniversaries.  ~W.J. Cameron
  • I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.
    ~Charles Dickens
  • Christmas is the season for kindling the fire of hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart.  ~Washington Irving
  • Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas.  ~Peg Bracken
  • At Christmas, all roads lead home.  ~Marjorie Holmes
  • Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love!  ~Hamilton Wright Mabie
  • Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.  ~Author unknown
  • I wish we could put up some of the Christmas spirit in jars and open a jar of it every month.  ~Harlan Miller

Christmas Messaages

These simple messages are perfect for adding a little “extra something” to your Christmas cards and eCards this year:

  • May your days be filled with magic and cheer!
  • Decorate your Christmas with joy!
  • May all your days be happy and bright!
  • Warmest thoughts and best wishes for a joyful holiday season.
  • Jolly holly-days to your and yours!
  • Merry up and have your best Christmas ever!
  • HO! HO! HOpe your holidays are filled with fun!
  • Christmas…hope yours is all about the merry!
  • Merry Christmas to someone who’s always on Santa’s “nice” list!
  • Merry Kiss-mas!
  • God bless us, everyone
  • Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season
    and all the best in the coming year!
  • Merry Christmas with all the trimmings!
  • Hope this season finds you all wrapped up in happy!
What to Write In a Christmas CardWhat to Write In a Christmas CardWhat to Write In a Christmas CardWhat to Write In a Christmas CardWhat to Write In a Christmas CardWhat to Write In a Christmas Card

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Christmas eCard of the Week – His Great Love

Christmas eCard of the Week   His Great Love

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our eCard of the Week this week is His Great Love - one of Blue Mountain’s beautiful religious Christmas ecards that reminds us of the reason for the season. The above artwork gives us a sneak peak at this wonderous eCard!

This card features a gorgeous snowy night, which Blue Mountain artist Pam Trautman brings to life. When Pam was designing this card she was thinking about the magical feeling she gets when she steps outside during a big snowfall. “I get inspired from standing in the quietness and watching the snow fall,” she says.

Take a minute to enjoy this beautiful card today, and if you love it as much as we do, send and share it with everyone you’re thinking about this holiday season!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Christmas eCard of the week – Penguin Medley!

Christmas eCard of the week   Penguin Medley! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We are excited to bring you an inside look at one of our favorite new Christmas eCards this year! Throughout the month of December we’ll be selecting one eCard a week to display on our blog along with a look at some of the artwork featured in the card and inspiration behind the greeting.

Our pick this week is Penguin Medley. This adorably fun animated Christmas eCard features our favorite tuxedo-wearing feathered friends.  Set to classical Christmas music, this card mixes animation and video clips. Artist Terry Flores worked her magic to bring the spirit of the season straight to your screen with this happy eCard!

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